For most of the game, Los Angeles looked in control, but the last six minutes or so probably gave fans flashbacks to the frustrations of last season. Lonzo Ball was asked after the game about what went wrong, and said the Lakers have to move the ball for all 48 minutes. (quotes via Kyle Goon of the Southern California News Group):
We were playing a lot of iso-ball. We got away from what got us the lead, I think. We were missing shots and not getting back, and they hit some key threes.
For whatever reason, during clutch situations the modern NBA game reverts back to a 90’s style of play featuring a whole bunch of standing around while one guy tries to score on another guy. It’s maddening.
Not to put all the blame on one player (there were plenty of culprits), but no one seemed to encapsulate the difference between the style of play that helped the Lakers control the game and the one that cost it that Ball was talking about more than Brandon Ingram.
BI tonight— Laker Film Room (@LakerFilmRoom) December 28, 2018
PnRs + ISOs = 8 pts, 1 asst, 4 TOs, 0.73 PPP (including pass-outs)
Everything Else = 14 pts, 1 asst, 1, TO 1.23 PPP (including pass-outs)
The full season tells a similar story. There's a good player in there but IMO they emphasize the wrong parts of his game.
In order for Ingram to fit into what the Lakers are trying to do, he needs to be decisive with the ball and ready to make a play as soon as he catches. Once he lulls himself to sleep and reverts back to isolation, he becomes maddeningly inefficient. What makes it more frustrating are that there have been stretches that make you think he’s starting to get it.
That said, Ball liked what he saw from the Lakers in their first game without LeBron James.
I thought guys stepped up. We didn’t do enough to win, obviously. (Bojan Bogdanovic) hit a big shot at the end. But there were positive takeaways from that.
It’s hard not to agree with Ball’s assessment of most of the game. Sacramento has been really good this season, and despite that, if Ball didn’t cramp up and have to come out of the game the conversation after it would be very different.
Still, now that James is out and will be for a little while, the Lakers cannot afford to revert to bad habits as doing so can very quickly cost them wins. Given how insane the playoff race is going to be, that simply can’t happen.
While it’s easy to occasionally single guys out, attention to detail and wandering away from winning basketball is a team-wide and season-long issue. The Lakers have just been able to skate by on James’ greatness previously. As long as he’s out, the remaining Lakers (and especially the young core) have to remain focused. If they don’t, and give up the Lakers’ current playoff seeding completely, they’ll likely be exchanged for guys the organization can more consistently rely upon.